A SPLASH OF COLOGNE
Looking for things to do in this German city? Just follow your nose
When your childhood memories include buying 4711 gift packs for Mother’s Day, there’s one shop in Cologne that is more exciting than others. As I walked into 4711’s flagship store, my brain did a little flip in celebration of a fragrance that I hadn’t smelt in years.
Hundreds of bottles gleamed on the shelves and, in the corner of the store a group of monks was freshening up with 4711 that flowed freely from a tap into a golden bowl below.
To me, 4711 had always been a scent from the ’70s but upstairs in the museum I soon discovered more than 200 years of history.
I may remember when Calvin Klein’s CK One was hailed as a groundbreaking unisex fragrance, but 4711 was a unisex fragrance back in 1792. It was also a health drink.
While we don’t recommend trying it now, the original 4711 was used internally and externally, and people would either drink it straight or mix it with a little wine as well as splashing it on their body. It was only when Napoleon decided all medicine recipes had to be revealed in 1810 that it became solely a fragrance when the owner, Wilhelm Muelhens, refused to share his secret recipe.
Inside glass cabinets old long, green 4711 bottles give way to the first clear bottles with blue and gold labels, and I’m surprised to see how little has changed in the bottle’s design since 1820.
As I move around the museum, I find 4711 caused a scandal or two with its advertising, with posters from the 1920s showing scantily clad women partying the night away. Well, until the Archbishop of the time had the posters taken down.
Strangely, I couldn’t see any reference to Sherbet’s “It Gets You Going” 4711 ads in Australia, but I did learn that the fragrance also lays claim to the first German TV ad in colour.
4711 is named after the street number where the fragrance began, and in 1943 the original store was devastated in Allied carpet-bombing. In 1964, the rebuilt headquarters and store at Glockengasse No. 4711 opened its doors, and from June until December 2017 the store will be renovated.
Fragrance lovers travelling to Cologne for the rest of this year can still visit 4711’s special pop up store, as well as the museum based around that other famous cologne from Cologne, Eau De Cologne.
That Fragrance Museum (Duftmuseum) can only be visited on guided tours, which sell out in advance so it’s best to book ahead. (farina-haus.de)
Of course, while we may think fragrance when we hear the word Cologne, there is more to this 2000year-old city. Here are some other top things to do.
One of Germany’s most popular tourist attractions, Cologne Cathedral attracts more than six million visitors a year and is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.
It took 632 years to complete and, when it was finally finished in 1880, it was the tallest building in the world. Well, until the Washington Monument took the crown four years later.
The cathedral still has the world’s tallest dual spires and those who climb the 533 steps are rewarded with panoramic views of the city and beyond.
Downstairs, the stained glass windows, carved choir stalls and 14thcentury paintings are worth a visit.
There are also 12 Romanesque churches within the city’s medieval walls, including St Ursula where human bones decorate the walls, while skull relics are on display in carved golden boxes in the macabre Golden Chamber.
Whether you love art, history, sport or chocolate, Cologne has a museum for you.
The Ludwig Museum has the biggest pop art collection outside the US including works by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, as well as the world’s third-largest Picasso collection.
The Romano-Germanic Museum is built over a Roman villa and visitors can see a large Dionysus mosaic in its original place in the basement. The Museum of East Asian Art has one of the most important collections of Chinese, Korean and Japanese art in Europe, while the Wallraf-RichartzMuseum shares fine art from medieval times to the 20th century.
At the Chocolate Museum you cannot only look, you can touch and
AT THE CHOCOLATE MUSEUM YOU CANNOT ONLY LOOK, YOU CAN TOUCH AND TASTE
taste as you dip waffles into a 3m-high chocolate fountain, while taking in 3000 years of chocolate history.
And over at the German Sports and Olympic Museum you can see displays on everything from the original Olympic Games to skateboarding and BMXing. There’s also a chance to feel what it’s like to hit Tour de France speeds on a racing bike when you take a ride in a wind tunnel.
With some of the best shopping in Germany, Cologne offers an opportunity to get a little shopping cardio into your day.
The first pedestrianised shopping street in Germany, Hohe Strasse, and neighbouring Schildergasse are two of the most popular shopping streets, while luxury brands can be found along Mittelstrasse.
Meanwhile, the Belgian Quarter is where young and upcoming designers are sharing their wares. Here, the streets are named after cities and regions in Belgium, and there are interesting cafes, bars and restaurants to refuel in.